Why is Starmer intent on denying others education that HE enjoyed?

ANDREW PIERCE: Why is Sir Keir Starmer intent on denying others the private education that HE enjoyed by scrapping their charitable status?

Even by Keir Starmer’s usual standards, his recent hypocrisy over private schooling has been nothing short of breathtaking.

In a policy lifted straight from the hymn book of his Marxist predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader confirmed in the House of Commons yesterday that he would scrap the charitable status of the 2,400 private schools in England if he were Prime Minister.

As an immediate consequence, school fees would rise by 20 per cent to accommodate VAT. Critics have dismissed the move as a blatant attempt to incite class envy: something he hopes will placate the large and enduring Corbynite wing of his Party and win votes at the next general election.

Yet the policy makes little economic sense and could see up to 200 private schools – which collectively contribute £16.5 billion to the UK economy – forced to close. Higher fees would also hammer hard-working middle class families, with up to 90,000 children having to switch to the already over-burdened state system.

The Labour leader confirmed in the House of Commons yesterday that he would scrap the charitable status of the 2,400 private schools in England if he were Prime Minister

Starmer, whose father Rodney owned a successful tool-making company and whose mother Jo was a nurse, has always played up his allegedly ‘working class’ credentials

Yet there is another issue too: the Labour leader’s staggering double standards. For Sir Keir, 60, knows better than most the benefits of an expensive education.

Indeed, Starmer, whose father Rodney owned a successful tool-making company and whose mother Jo was a nurse, has always played up his allegedly ‘working class’ credentials.

So much so that, when submitting his Who’s Who entry in 2009, he chose to omit the fact that when he passed his 11-Plus in 1974, he gained a place at Reigate Grammar School, in Surrey.

Two years after he joined, however, and after Margaret Thatcher’s government moved to scrap grammars, the school was forced to become private.

Sir Keir’s parents reportedly agonised over how they would cover the fees – but they needn’t have worried. In a wonderful stroke of luck, the local education authority stepped in at the last minute to pay them. Children from better-off families and any new pupils had to pay.

And so it was that Sir Keir enjoyed the benefits of five years at one of Britain’s finest private schools.

To this day, Reigate is consistently ranked among the top 50 independent schools in the country, with fees starting at £20,000 a year (rising to £24,000 under a Starmer government).

With its 25-metre swimming pool, ‘fitness suite’, 32 acres of sports grounds (including rugby, hockey, cricket and football pitches) and even its own café, the 1,100-pupil school offers everything an ambitious young person could need to gain a rounded education.

While there, Sir Keir learnt to play the flute, piano and recorder – and was good enough to secure a place at the prestigious Junior Guildhall School of Music in London as a teenager. Every Saturday morning he would travel to the city for lessons with some of the best music teachers in Britain, many of whom played in professional orchestras. Sir Keir says classical music remains a particular passion, with Beethoven’s piano sonatas counting among his favourites.

With such a brilliant education under his belt, Sir Keir went on to earn a place at the University of Leeds, before moving to Oxford to study a postgraduate degree in Civil Law.

The rest is history. He soared to the top of the legal profession as a barrister, becoming Director of Public Prosecutions in 2008, for which he received his knighthood in 2014. The following year he turned his hand to politics, and within five years he was Leader of the Opposition – and is now the favourite to be the next Prime Minister.

Sir Keir learnt to play the flute, piano and recorder – and was good enough to secure a place at the prestigious Junior Guildhall School of Music in London as a teenager

It is certainly an impressive CV, but the question remains as to whether Sir Keir would have achieved any of it had he been booted out of Reigate when it became private in 1976, and forced instead to attend a local comprehensive?

One thing that’s for sure is that Sir Keir is grateful for the education he received. In 2017 he was the guest of honour at a fundraising dinner at the East India Club, a stuffy establishment for the old guard in St James’s, London, which once counted Nigel Farage as a member.

During his speech that evening, Sir Keir reflected, according to a school publication that described the event, on his ‘fond memories of his time at school and of the first-class education he received which laid the platform for his successful career’.

He remains an ambassador for the school’s charitable foundation which raises money for the local community and helps recent Reigate leavers in their chosen career paths.

What a shame, then, that many parents of pupils currently at Reigate must be deeply concerned about whether they will be able to afford to keep their children at the school, should its famous alumnus enact a policy that would inevitably cause its fees to soar.

Ironically, these are the very same worries that Starmer’s own parents Rodney and Jo faced 50 years ago, until the local authority stepped in.

So why is it, you might ask, that Sir Keir remains so determined to deny thousands of children the wonderful opportunities he was lucky enough to enjoy?

They didn’t all go to local comps… 

One in seven Labour MPs attended private schools, according to Sutton Trust analysis following the last General Election. They include:

Sir Keir Starmer, who attended Reigate Grammar School, which became a fee-paying school whilst he was there. His fees were paid by Surrey County Council. The school now charges £21,000 a year.

Anneliese Dodds, party chair, attended Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, which now charges £14,000 a year.

John Healey, shadow defence secretary, attended the St Peter’s School in York, where boarding fees are now £33,000 a year. It describes itself as ‘one of the oldest schools in the world’, dating back to 627 AD.

Louise Haigh, shadow transport secretary, attended Sheffield High School, where fees are currently £14,000 a year.

Thangam Debbonaire, shadow commons leader, attended Bradford Girls’ Grammar School, then a private school, and Chetham’s School of Music, which charges £33,000 a year.

Dame Margaret Hodge attended Oxford High School as a boarder when it was a Direct Grant school. It turned independent in 1976, after she left, and now charges £17,000 a year.

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